This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Kristen Pumphrey, the wiz behind the deliciously scented and simply beautiful P.F. Candle Co. Welcome, Kristen!
LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?
Kristen: I used to work at a craft magazine in New York, and had the opportunity to write about and communicate with people who made things for a living. When the magazine folded, I lost my job, and decided to take the leap and become a maker. I relocated to Austin (cheaper cost of living and there was already a great DIY scene there) and started Pommes Frites in 2008.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Kristen: We create a great candle at a great price; we keep the packaging simple so that you can use it every day. We think scent and candles should be a part of your every day life!
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Kristen: We were really eco-concious and were all about repurposing items. We still carry on that green aspect today, but I don’t lead with it anymore; instead, I think of “green” practices as just a basic choice you should make every day, not something to tack on as a selling feature.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Kristen: We sell our candles online at pfcandleco.com, and also work with over 250 indepedent boutiques worldwide. Nationally, we are carried at Urban Outfitters, Madewell, CB2, Steven Alan, and American Eagle (we were a part of their Wear America initiative this holiday season).
LBC: Walk us through a typical work day.
Kristen: During the holiday season, I’m usually working 10 – 12 hours a day. I usually get in between 9:00am and 9:30am. The mornings are spent following up with emails from new customers, existing boutiques, and working with buyers from our national stores. We have a company-wide meeting every morning where we go through that day’s agenda and project the new few days out. Some days, I’ll help out in the studio pouring candles, shipping boxes, or labeling. Other days, I’m in my office mixing up new fragrances, taking photos for our site or instagram, or working on custom projects. Every day tends to be a little different – which is nice. It always goes by fast and doesn’t feel like work.
LBC: What are the some things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Kristen: 1. Understanding that you are not your product. You can’t please everybody all the time, don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t like your product.
2. The handmade industry is becoming increasingly competitive. Make sure there is a need or hole in the market place for your product or service – even if it’s handmade. Is it different enough? Can you offer a competitive edge? If not, why would someone go for your product over another? Being brutally honest with yourself early on will save tears later on.
3. Someone told me this when I started a business, and it still rings true: be prepared to eat a lot of beans. It may be years before you feel like you can make a living doing what you’re doing.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Kristen: Cleaning my desk or clearing my work surface brings me focus. I’ll usually burn a candle and some sage or incense as well.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Kristen: Moving to downtown Los Angeles was one of the best business decisions we’ve ever made. The city informs our business in a way that has really helped us. We love our neighborhood – it’s not only a cultural hub, but manufacturing center as well. When we moved in to our own studio space (rather than working out of home), it lit a new fire under us.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience.
Kristen: One of our biggest obstacles has been learning how to scale. A year ago, it was just Tom (my business partner and husband) and me working on the business 24/7. As opportunities presented themselves, we just said YES! and figured out how to make things work afterwards. Our expansion this year was pretty rapid fire: in January we had the help of one friend part-time; now, we have five full time employees and two part time. We moved into an additional space and took over storage in a friend’s studio. Earlier this year, we realized that it wasn’t just about finding the time and labor to make the product – our suppliers were having trouble keeping up with us! We had a situation where our regular jar distributor was out of our standard style – for over 5 months. We had no choice but to make it work, and find a solution.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox you can’t do without?
Kristen: 1. Quickbooks (the online version – super easy for doing our books and invoicing customers)
2. Google Apps (we use a ton of Drive spreadsheets and calendar to keep us organized)
3. A calculator (I use an old TI-83! It’s so much better to use than the calculator on my phone)
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Kristen: We hope that our company continues to grow and help our community grow, too. We’re passionate about not only creating a great product, but a great company, too. We want to continue our development as a trusted brand name.
LBC: Your musical play list is full of …
Kristen: Right now my playlist includes angsty 90s girl jams, Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Young (always Neil Young).
LBC: Tell me about a few of the places on your travel “bucket list”.
Kristen: I have a goal to visit every National Park in the US.
LBC: Have you ever held an odd job or one you weren’t particularly fond of?
Kristen: In high school, I had to do an internship for my anatomy class and elected to shadow our family dentist. Watching root canals was definitely not fun, but I did love cleaning instruments and organizing folders.
Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love your beautiful line and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for P.F. Candle Co.! We’re cheering you on!
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker Monday” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!